The Global Alliance for Incinerator Alternatives (GAIA), comprising of over 650 members from 92 countries, urged people, industries, and governments to formally commit to “Zero Waste” policies. That means designing waste out of the system with prevention, reduction, reuse, recycling and composting, instead of resorting to dirty and unsustainable technologies like incineration and landfilling. GAIA cited toxic pollution, greenhouse gas emissions, and high costs of incineration among the reasons for shifting to Zero Waste approaches.
Joining GAIA and Greenpeace in collecting discard samples on and in offshore areas of Manila Bay are its partners EcoWaste Coalition, Ban Toxics, Buklod Tao, Ecology Ministry of the Diocese of Caloocan, Earth UST, Health Care Without Harm, Institute for Climate and Sustainable Cities, Mother Earth Foundation, Sagip Pasig Movement, Samahan ng Muling Pagkabuhay Multi-Purpose Cooperative, Sining Yapak, and Zero Waste Philippines.
“Manila Bay is only one of the innumerable examples where our dependence on disposable stuff such as plastic bags is choking the life out of our living environment and we’re already experiencing its effects, so we have to start rethinking our throw-away lifestyles,” said Gigie Cruz of GAIA.
“We hope that the people, industries, and government will heed our call to “Stop Trashing the Climate,” support “Zero Waste for Zero Warming,” direct mitigation funds in the waste sector toward recycling and resource recovery projects, and support global efforts in making landfills and incinerators obsolete,” added Cruz.
“Manila Bay and its estuaries have for a long time been symbolic of all the trash we throw in our waters. Thankfully, there have been improvements due to much-needed enactment of environmental laws. But more needs to be done: we can clean visible trash, but toxic discharges which are actually more harmful remain invisible. In line with Zero Waste principles, Greenpeace is calling for a mandatory pollution disclosure system that will be the first step to eliminate these hidden toxics in our waters,” said Beau Baconguis, Toxics Campaigner of Greenpeace Southeast Asia.
The waste audit was also conducted as part of the 10th anniversary of both GAIA and Greenpeace Southeast Asia (GPSEA), with the participation of boats and crew from the Greenpeace flagship, Rainbow Warrior, which is in Manila as part of its “Turn the Tide” tour of the region to highlight solutions to the threat of climate change.
GAIA was founded in South Africa in 2000 to mobilize grassroots action against incinerators and other dirty waste technologies and advance sustainable and just solutions such as Zero Waste and Clean Production.
The regional Greenpeace office, on the other hand, was established ten years ago following the visit of the Rainbow Warrior for the “Toxics Free Asia Tour” in the Philippines, Indonesia and Thailand.
In 2006, Greenpeace, GAIA, EcoWaste, and other groups also conducted a waste audit in Manila Bay where 1000 liters of waste were collected. Results revealed that plastic bags composed 51.4% of the discards recovered. Along with other plastic products like composites and polystyrene, they made up 76.9% of the total waste, while biodegradables comprised 12.9%. Rubber completed the remaining 10.2%.
“Ten years of working together across continents has made it clear that Zero Waste is a much better alternative for the climate, the environment, our health and our economies,” Cruz added. “Zero Waste has significant climate benefits since it conserves resources, saves energy, and cuts greenhouse gas emissions. At the same time, it creates many jobs and strengthens economies.”
GAIA also expressed support to the developments in the House of Representatives Committee on Ecology, particularly HB No. 651 authored by Rep. Sonny Angara, and HB No. 2109 co-authored by Reps. Rufus Rodriguez and Maximo Rodriguez, Jr. which are respectively mandating the use of recyclable or biodegradable materials for the packaging of consumer products; and banning the use of plastic bags in groceries, restaurants and other establishments.
“These timely bills reinforce the Ecological Solid Waste Management Act of 2000 and provide crucial steps toward Zero Waste,” Cruz points out. “It is our hope that they get enacted as laws soon,” she emphasized.
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